“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same, you wanna be where everybody knows your name. You wanna go where people know, people are all the same, you wanna go where everybody knows your name.”
…Original and full length lyrics for “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” the theme song from the 1980s television sitcom “Cheers,” written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo.
My former colleague, Dan McDonald, master teacher and kid-magnet extraordinaire, came up with a damn good concept one day. He said we need “Norm schools”… the kind where “everybody knows your name,” and not just during regular school hours. Dan is the kind of teacher who knows the value of making a meaningful connection with a kid first, and then as a student. He knew that without that connection, scholastic success was but a dream, especially for the kids from at-risk environments that he typically supported.
Dan wondered out loud what our educational environment would look, sound and feel like if every person that worked in a school, metaphorically speaking, knew the name of every kid who attended that school… and of course he didn’t mean that they should memorize the yearbook… he meant knowing their name in the sense that the characters from ‘Cheers’ knew Norm’s name and everyone else’s in the bar… that ‘Cheers’ was like home for many of them, and the patrons like family.
He wondered further why schools shut their doors for all intent and purposes at 4:00 PM, and don’t effectively open up again until 7:00 AM the next day. There are many reasons to leave school buildings open after regular school hours, but Dan was interested really in just one. He figured that if the connection to school was meaningful and positive for kids during the day, why couldn’t that element carry on into the evening? He had brilliant ideas about school partnerships with social service and helping agencies whereby programming and services for youth would be carried on right where school left off every day. He understood that for many, school is the only safe and nurturing environment kids know… why not allow them the privilege of being in that safe place as much as possible?
Next time you go to work at your school, or next time you walk into your child’s school, take some time to think about what kind of school it really is. Is it the kind where kids feel a sense of belonging, safety and care… like family, or is it some other kind of school? If it is some other kind of school, and you’re wondering why you aren’t that excited to go there, ask yourself also what you can do to change that feeling.